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'Name lives on even if sponsor is found' But SportsDirect.com label is to be used.

Byline: Luke Edwards

THE St James' Park name will live on even if a sponsor is found for Newcastle United's iconic stadium, the club's managing director insisted last night.

Derek Llambias said no sponsor would ever be able to rename the ground but, in an attempt to clarify how a new link-up may work, he said the ground would be known "commercially" as "Sports Direct.com at St James' Park" for the rest of the season, after the sportswear company owned by club boss Mike Ashley.

Mr Llambias insisted the stadium will continue to be called St James' Park on a day-to-day basis, with the sponsor's main benefit being the introduction of branding around the ground. He said this would be done in a similar way to how Sports Direct.com signs enjoy prominence around St James' Park at present.

A future sponsor would also be able to use its name in conjunction with St James' Park, but will not be able torthe name, said Mr Llambias.

He said: "What we are offering is a package. At the moment we have Sports Direct.com signs all around the stadium which is what we will be offering to the sponsors should they wish to purchase that package.

"We are not getting rid of the St James' Park name, we are offering people the chance to have their branding all around the stadium as well as on a new jumbo electronic scoreboard. The company can then say it is whatever at St James' Park.

"To use an analogy, if you look at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant at Claridges, nobody calls it that, they don't call it Ramsey's at Claridges, they just call it Claridges and that will be the same with St James' Park."

With a new kit sponsor and kit supplier also needed in the summer following the expiration of deals with Northern Rock and Adidas, Mr Llambias said it was the ideal time to maximise the club's commercial potential by offering three separate packages which could be bought by one company or three different ones.

He explained: "This is the first time we have been able to attract any sponsorship money since we took over. The last lot was all spent in one lump sum before we got here and we are trying to maximise the money we can bring in for the good of the club. By offering sponsorship of the stadium we are adding value.

"All of the money that is raised will go straight back into the team and help us move forward as a business. We have taken a big hit this year following relegation and that hit has had to be covered by Mike because we have not got the full amount of money from the bank. We have to look at ways to increase our income and these sponsorship packages are a good way to do that.

"But we know the St James' Park name is part of the history of the club, part of its tradition, and we do not want to lose that."

MPS PITCH IN NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley's plans to rename St James' Park for cash have been blasted in Parliament. Mr Ashley unveiled moves to sell the naming rights for St James' Park, when he took United off the market last month after failing for the second time to find a buyer for the club.

In a statement, the club said: "The club aims to maximise its commercial revenues through a club sponsor kit deal and stadium naming rights."

Fans were left stunned by the move and the row has now reached Parliament with Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland tabling a Commons motion urging Mr Ashley to rethink his strategy.

The motion tabled by the Labour MP and United fan "regrets" the intention of the club's current owners to consider renaming St James'' Park, an integral part of Newcastle and Tyneside since 1892.

It adds the name is "renowned throughout the world of football and beyond as symbolic of the game, and of the loyalty of its supporters to their club".

And the club''s owners are being urged to reconsider or "ensure that whatever sponsorship deals they may seek, the name St James'' Park lives on in football and in Newcastle". Mr Clelland said: "I have been a Newcastle United supporter since I was a teenager and St James' is as much a part of my life and culture as it is for thousands of Geordies."

Newcastle United Supporters Trust Interim Chair Neil Mitchell said: "Supporters and local people alike would back this motion and we commend David Clelland for reflecting public anger at this massive misjudgement by the current regime at St James' Park.

"We have a petition on www.nust.org.uk which as of today, has attracted 15,000 names supporting the name St James'' Park. I would urge other members of all political parties to support the petition. Jim Cousins MP recently joined the Trust and David Faulkner, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, was one of our first members. Now it's time for all political parties to back the Trust aim of fans in and Ashley out."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 4, 2009
Words:863
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